D23 : Jungle Cruise, Maleficent, Mulan

At today’s D23 expo, Sean Bailey, president, Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, took the audience through upcoming releases for the studio, including next summer’s “Jungle Cruise,” a rousing adventure inspired by the classic theme-park attraction.

Star Dwayne Johnson, who plays riverboat captain Frank Wolff, entered Hall D23 aboard an original Jungle Cruise boat, introducing a “trailer” that showed off his character—so much so, that co-star Emily Blunt, who portrays Dr. Lily Houghton, arrived via classic car to share with fans her own “trailer,” offering a different perspective—Bailey laughingly informed Johnson and Blunt that neither trailer was official.

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The trailers played up a humorous competitive relationship between Blunt and Johnson, as they battled for attention in the panel with both even getting elaborate entrances–Johnson arrived on an actual Jungle Cruise boat, while Blunt was driven into the arena in a classic car. However, these first looks at the film also have an idea of what the audience can expect from the film.

With Blunt’s character in search of this mystical tree, which has healing powers, she enlists Frank to take her up-river. Along the way, they encounter marauders and wild animals, find themselves in fights–one of which ends when Lily accidentally punches Frank in the face. In addition to the comedy, there are plenty of nods to the theme park ride. At one point, while giving a tour, Johnson shows his passengers the “eighth wonder of the world,” the backside of water. On the ride, this is done by going behind a waterfall. For Frank’s boat tour, though, he simply turns on a faucet, in one of the sillier moments of his trailer.

Both trailers led to the same moment, which revealed a man-made of snakes. While a full shot of the slithering character wasn’t shown, Frank and Lilly had very different reactions. “That’s impossible,” a dumbfounded Frank uttered. Lily, on the other hand, was astonished. “It’s real,” she said.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” hits U.S. theaters on July 24, 2020.

Bailey welcomed Angelina Jolie back to the stage to present exclusive footage and details about Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” the exciting follow-up to the hit 2014 film. Maleficent, portrayed by Jolie, and her goddaughter Aurora, played by Elle Fanning, begin to question the complex family ties that bind them as they are pulled in different directions by impending nuptials, unexpected allies and new dark forces at play.

Aurora’s imminent marriage to Prince Phillip is cause for celebration—however, Prince Phillip’s mother, Queen Ingrith, portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer, challenges Maleficent’s role as Aurora’s mother figure. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Connal, one of the leaders of the dark fey who becomes Maleficent’s ally. Ejiofor, Pfeiffer and Fanning were all welcomed to the stage by an enthusiastic audience.

Directed by Joachim Rønning, who co-helmed 2017’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” arrives in U.S. theaters on Oct. 18, 2019.

Bailey next introduced acclaimed filmmaker Niki Caro, director of “Mulan,” the upcoming live-action reimagining of the 1998 classic animated film. Caro expressed to fans her passion for the project, sharing several minutes of footage from the epic adventure inspired by one of China’s fiercest warriors.

In Disney’s “Mulan,” which opens in U.S. theaters on March 27, 2020, the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders. So, the eldest daughter of an honored but ailing warrior masquerades as a man, transforming into a heroic warrior to ultimately earn her the respect of a grateful nation and a proud father.

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